Why Does My Body Need Copper?

It’s a favorite for jewelry, wiring, and coins… but copper is important for our bodies, too.

Copper is a mineral that is found in the earth’s crust… and in surface and ground water around the world. Plants grown in copper-rich soil or animals that eat those plants may be rich in copper.

What does copper do in the body? It does lots of things! Copper is a component of more than one enzyme in the body. It is involved with regulating cellular metabolism and connective tissue formation. Copper also helps the body absorb, store, and metabolize iron, another important mineral.

How’s this for a cool copper fact? Bacterial growth is inhibited on a copper surface… so many hospitals used copper doorknobs and door plates (for push-open doors) to help prevent the spread of disease.

Great food sources of copper include: vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains, and fruits. Shellfish and beef are good meat sources of copper, too! Although it is abundantly available in a variety of foods, surveys by the National Institutes of Health indicate that many Americans may not get their recommended daily allowance of copper.

  • Adults (eighteen and older) should get 900 micrograms of copper daily
  • Adolescents (fourteen to eighteen) should get 890 micrograms of copper daily
  • Children (nine to thirteen) should get 700 micrograms of copper daily
  • Children (four to eight) should get 440 micrograms of copper daily
  • Children under four need 300 micrograms or less of copper daily

Copper deficiency can interfere with a lot of different body processes, including iron absorption. So it’s important to get enough copper in your diet! People who are prone to copper deficiency include: premature or low birth weight infants, people with digestive issues (like celiac disease), people with cystic fibrosis, people on extremely restrictive diets.

Talk to your doctor if you believe you may not be getting enough copper!

Copper is under investigation as a potential treatment for a variety of diseases. Some studies have shown that copper intake may influence Alzheimer’s risk. Traditionally, copper bracelets are thought to ease arthritis; researchers are looking at a form of copper (copper salicylate) to reduce arthritis symptoms. Copper intake or copper levels in the blood may influence cholesterol levels and/or coronary artery disease. Lab studies have shown that copper may help protect tooth enamel. And scientists know that copper plays a role in immune system function… they’re just not sure exactly how a copper deficiency can impact your immune system.